Mikhail Bulgakov

(1891-1940), Russian

Mikhail Bulgakov was a Soviet dramatist, novelist, and a short story writer. Starting his professional life as a doctor, Bulgakov gave up medicine for writing. His first significant work was the 1925 serialized novel ‘Belaya Gvardiya’ (‘The White Guard’), which was never collected into a book. The lack of a communist hero, although being a realistic and sympathetic representation of the intentions and actions of a group of anti-Bolshevik White officers during the civil war, was received with a barrage of government criticism.

Two further literary works by Bulgakov were created in the 1930s. His unfinished ‘Teatralny Roman,’ also known as ‘Black Snow: A Theatrical Novel’ (originally titled ‘Zapiski Pokoynika’ [‘Notes of a Dead Man’]), was his first work. It was an autobiographical novel that featured a scathing satire on Konstantin Stanislavsky and the goings-on behind the scenes at the Moscow Art Theatre. The second was ‘Master I Margarita’ (‘The Master and Margarita’), a stunning Gogolesque fantasy. It juxtaposes two planes of action, one in present-day Moscow and the other in Pontius Pilate’s Judea, and is simultaneously witty and ribald while grappling with deep and timeless questions of good and evil.

Life Facts

  • He was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1891.
  • He was married three times.
  • He was a trained doctor and worked as a physician during World War I.
  • He lived in Moscow all his life despite surveillance from the government.

Interesting Facts

  • He was a dog lover and even wrote a satirical book on dogs.
  • He was a member of Serapion Brothers.
  • He was friends with Vladimir Nabokov
  • He has a museum named after him in Moscow and a statue of him in Kiev

Famous Books by Mikhail Bulgakov

  • The Master and Margarita is one of the key works of classic Russian literature from the contemporary age. As the novel’s portrayal of Soviet life in the 1930s is so shockingly true, it was only ever published in a redacted edition in the 1960s. Because of how durable its realities are, Russians now frequently use its language.

  • Heart of a Dog is a satirical book, which describes how a dog is surgically changed into a man, is an open condemnation of Soviet society, particularly the new rich who emerged after the Bolshevik revolution.

  • The White Guard tells the story of The Ukrainian War of Independence in 1918 in Kiev. The Turbin family, members of the anti-Bolshevik White Army, are the subject of the narrative. As the Turbins battle to survive in a city ripped apart by violence, the book tackles themes of loyalty, identity, and the devastation of war. As they attempt to negotiate the shifting political landscape and defend their family and ideals, the protagonists in the novel are frequently faced with difficult decisions and moral issues. The book is a potent allegory on how terrible war is and how it affects both people and society.

  • Black Snow tells the story of Maxudov who makes an attempt at suicide after his manuscript is rejected. If it doesn’t work, he dramatizes his book. Maxudov is shocked when the play is accepted by the illustrious Independent Theater, much to the chagrin of literary Moscow. Maxudov then finds himself sucked into a whirlwind of inflated egos. There are fewer and fewer chances of poor Maxudov’s play ever being staged with each rehearsal as more and more sparks fly higher and higher. A masterful satire on Mikhail Bulgakov’s decade-long love-hate connection with Stanislavsky, Method acting, and the Moscow Arts Theater, ‘Black Snow’ is the ultimate backstage novel.

  • A Country Doctor’s Notebook tells the story of a 25-year-old Dr. Mikhail Bulgakov who was thrust into the frigid rural Russia of 1916–17, which was yet completely untouched by such innovations as the motor car, the telephone, or the electric light. Bulgakov’s fascinating combination of frank realism and imaginative exuberance describes how his alter-ego deals (or fails to deal) with the new and frequently horrifying obligations of a lone doctor in a large country practice on the verge of Revolution.


After earning his degree from Kiev University’s Medical Faculty in 1916, Mikhail Bulgakov served as a doctor in the Russian Civil War. He wrote, though, in his free time because literature was his passion. He accepted an invitation to become a playwright for the Moscow Art Theatre in 1925, and over time, the Moscow Art Theatre hired him as a literary adviser. One of the most significant Russian authors of the 20th century, Bulgakov was affected by his experiences throughout the turbulent time of Russian history as well as his varied educational background in medicine and literature.

Literary Career

Mikhail Bulgakov’s literary career spanned two decades, during which he wrote several plays, short stories, and novels. Some of his most famous works include: ‘The White Guard’ (1925), ‘Heart of a Dog’ (1925), ‘The Fatal Eggs’ (1925), ‘The Master and Margarita’ (written from 1928-1940, published posthumously in 1967). Bulgakov’s works often faced censorship and were banned by the Soviet government. He struggled to get his works published and faced persecution from the authorities. Despite these challenges, Bulgakov continued to write until his death in 1940. His works have since become classics of Russian literature and continue to be widely read and studied around the world.


Mikhail Bulgakov passed away on March 10th, 1940, at the age of 48. Although the precise reason for his demise is unknown, it is assumed that he passed away as a result of complications from the kidney illness nephrosclerosis.

The final years of Bulgakov’s life were characterized by deteriorating health and escalating Soviet government persecution. His writings were outlawed, and he had trouble being published. He expressed his irritation and despondency in his diary, and ‘The Master and Margarita,’ his final book, was unfinished when he passed away.

Influence and Legacy

Individuals who write in the genres of satire, absurdism, and magical realism have been greatly influenced by Mikhail Bulgakov. His writing frequently combined imagination and reality to produce a distinctive style that served as an inspiration to several authors. Salman Rushdie, Gabriel García Marquez, and Tom Stoppard are some of the authors who have been impacted by Bulgakov’s work. Particularly Rushdie has named Bulgakov as one of his greatest influences, and ‘The Satanic Verses’ has allusions to ‘The Master and Margarita’ in the book.
A generation of writers who came after him were influenced by Bulgakov’s works, which also affected Russian literature.

Literature by Mikhail Bulgakov

Explore literature by Mikhail Bulgakov below, created by the team at Book Analysis.